Beyond resilience: The role of leadership in progressive planning

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Resilience has become an influential concept in planning theory and, to some extent, in planning practice. This paper, by drawing on research on the role of place-based leadership in promoting progressive planning and urban innovation in cities in fourteen countries, will suggest that resilience is a concept with serious limitations. On the plus side, the concept has proved itself to be valuable in enhancing understanding of the ability of an ecological system to absorb disturbances and recover from shocks and stresses. But the meaning of the word is now being stretched and applied in an inappropriate way to socio-political systems. The growing misuse of the term is eroding its usefulness in relation to pressing public policy debates. The evidence suggests that, as with the term sustainable development, powerful interests appear to be using the word resilience to promote a depoliticised, or managerial, view of city politics and planning. In much of the recent literature on resilience fundamental social conflicts are downplayed, power structures are neglected, and major challenges facing cities, particularly growing inequality in societies, are overlooked. Research for a new book, Leading the Inclusive City, suggests that paying attention to leadership, and particularly various forms of place-based leadership, can provide helpful insights on how to tackle social and environmental ills. The paper suggests that it may be possible to strengthen resilience theory and practice, certainly as it relates to urban and regional governance, by injecting ideas drawn from the study of place-based leadership.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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